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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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BUG: Deaf Identity and Internal Revolution

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Heuer is a radical only in the sense that he is doing what should have been done a long time ago. That is all. He is not extreme in any other regard. Hearing people have found justification in trying to eradicate the Deaf “variety of the human race.” They have forbidden Deaf people from signing. They have said that signing is wrong and that speaking is right, and that all Deaf people must speak. They have sought to make deaf children as like hearing people as much as possible. You will not find anything remotely similar in reverse; that is, Deaf people as a group have never imposed their will on hearing people, nor have they ever been in a position to do so. Heuer does not say that hearing people should be wiped out. He does not say that all hearing people should sign. He does not say that hearing children should be deafened by every possible means and made to be upstanding citizens of the Deaf world. In light of this, even Heuer’s strongest opinions are excruciatingly sensible, his points the very picture of reason.

But his words—the way he proposes his ideas—are a whole different matter. He does everything in his power to make every word inflammable. He has to do this to get through the murk of apathy and uncertainty that pervades much social thought in the community today. He knows there are flames raging deep inside each and every Deaf person, and his greatest gift to them in writing this book is bringing new ideas, new perspectives, and new strong and sure signs as close to the flame as he can. The rest is up to you, the reader. It does not matter if you are Deaf, are a signer, or have nothing to do with our community, and it does not matter in what way you respond; however, the reader’s response is what we cannot afford to lose.


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